Rheumatoid Arthritis

What is it?

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune illness that affects approximately 1% of the population (according to WebMD). The disease affects multiple joints throughout the body, however, almost always involving the knuckles of the hand. It affects women more than men (3:1 ratio) and typically presents between the ages of 30-40 years old. It is typical for patients to have flare-ups and remissions as the disease progresses.

What is the cause?

The exact cause of Auto Immune Diseases has yet to be identified. Auto Immune diseases are thought to be an over-reaction of our own immune systems that attack particular tissues throughout the body. Rheumatoid arthritis causes an immune response against the joint capsules of the body. The result of the chronic inflammation to a joint can lead to joint deformity, loss of movement, and chronic pain.

What symptoms are associated with it?

Rheumatoid arthritis typically begins with intermittent, unexplainable fatigue, and swelling of multiple joints bilaterally in either the arms or legs. The swollen joints will be stiff, painful and slightly reddened.

As the disease progresses (over years), fingers may begin to tilt toward the little finger side of the hand. Enlargement and/or nodule formation and possible subluxation or dislocation of the joints may occur as the joint structure changes shape. The boney changes to the affected joints frequently results in osteoporosis of the affected bones.

How is it diagnosed?

Diagnosis begins with recognition of the exacerbations of joint swelling in multiple joints throughout the body. According to the American College of Rheumatology, RA exists if 4 of the following 7 criteria are present:

  1. 1-Morning stiffness over 1 hour
  2. 2-Arthritis is 3 or more joints with swelling
  3. 3-Arthritis of the hand joints with swelling
  4. 4-Symmetric arthritis (found on both sides of body)
  5. 5-Rheumatoid Nodules
  6. 6-X-ray Changes consistent with RA
  7. 7-Positive RA Factor blood test and/or Anti-CCP

How do you treat Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Early Detection and Treatment is KEY to long-term success!

A combination of medications and joint healthy exercise is the best recipe to manage RA. A rheumatologist will recommend combinations of medications to include: anti-inflammatories, corticosteroids and DMARDS. (Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs.)

Chiropractic or Physical Therapy treatment focused on stretching and low impact exercise helps the patient maintain a high quality of life with minimal flare-ups. Aquatic therapy is an excellent option for RA patients!

Dr. Custer is the owner of Better Care Chiropractic & Physical Therapy. He is a doctor of chiropractic and incorporates his 10+ years of experience as an Athletic Trainer. He works in conjunction with a physical therapist to combine chiropractic manipulation with active rehabilitative techniques to restore pain-free living. If you have questions/comments/suggestions, please feel free to contact Dr. Custer at whybettercare@gmail.com.

Common X-ray Findings of RA

*Note the fingers deviating toward the little finger, swelling the “cloudy” swelling noted in joints, loss of bone mineralization near involved joints, and a subluxated index finger. Ouch!